The NFL Combine is one of the most exciting events during the NFL offseason. The best draft prospects all meet up in Indianapolis to partake in interviews, athleticism tests and positional drills to prove why NFL teams should take a chance on them. Players who do well at the Combine can make their stock rise, while players who don’t do well risk losing a lot of money on Draft Day.
I was able to drive down to Indianapolis on Friday night to get a first-hand look at the action for myself. I woke up early, left my hotel and headed to Lucas Oil Stadium to watch some of the NFL Draft prospects whom I have been studying since the summer (and some i have never heard of at all). This year marks my second consecutive Combine trip, and this one has not disappointed so far.
Armed with a pen and a few pieces of paper because I forgot my notebook at home, I took plenty of notes while watching the prospects who worked out on Saturday. Here are a few of the things that I took away from Saturday’s workouts, and which players I noticed who could be good fits with the Chicago Bears.
- I ate breakfast at the lounge in my hotel. They had a nice assortment of pastries, fruits, potatoes, meats and eggs to choose from. Considering that I had to wake up about four hours earlier than I typically do on the weekend, I needed that boost to kick off my day.
- The quarterbacks, wide receivers and tight ends worked out on Saturday, but I only watched the quarterbacks and wide receivers work out. Instead of watching the tight ends, I headed over to the Convention Center to see the defensive linemen and linebackers do their bench presses.
- The popular wide receiver target that a lot of people have linked to the Bears is Alabama’s Calvin Ridley. Many, including myself, consider him to be the best wide out in this year’s class. While he didn’t necessarily dominate at the Combine, he put together a decent outing for himself. Ridley ran a 4.44 40-yard dash, which was the ninth-fastest time for wide receivers. His 31-inch vertical, though, ranked 36th at his position. He looked decent in positional drills, as his cuts were sharp and his hands were typically reliable throughout the day. He did have a concerning drop in the gauntlet drill, but he managed to maintain a straight-line motion in the drill, which is a sure sign that a receiver has good body control. After having watched many of his college games and now having seen him work out in person, I can say that Ridley won’t be a good value pick at No. 8 for the Bears. He’s a solid receiver, but he doesn’t have that sky-high ceiling that you hope for when you pick a wide receiver in the top 10. If Chicago decides to trade down and pick him, though, I won’t be upset.
- Maryland’s D.J. Moore was spectacular at the Combine. His great week started at the measurements, when he was measured at 6’0”. For reference, I had him in my notes as 5’11”, and a few others had him at 5’10”. He ran a 4.42 40-yard dash, which was the fifth-fastest time in the receiver class, and was second in the group with a 39.5-inch vertical jump, just a half of an inch lower than first-place D.J. Chark. Moore also had the third-fastest 20-yard shuttle time among wide receivers with 4.07, and he led all receivers in the broad jump with an 11’0” jump. His positional drills were also very impressive, as his route running process was on full display. He caught a lot of his passes, and his cuts were quick and fluid. What makes Moore such a great fit for the Bears, though, is his ability to gain yards after the catch. He didn’t really have the chance to show that off at the Combine, but he’s a threat in open space. In my last big board update about a month ago, I ranked Moore as the 53rd best player in the draft, which ends up as a mid/late second-round pick. I have since watched a lot more tape on this year’s class, so that may not be accurate as of now, but it’s clear that Moore will rise on my board a bit. With his testing, some teams may likely consider him near the back end of Round 1.
- Two guys whom I hadn’t watched before the Combine who stood out to me were Texas Tech’s Dylan Cantrell and South Florida’s Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Cantrell only ran a 4.59 40-yard dash, but he was a top peformer in pretty much every other drill. His 38.5-inch vertical jump was the third-highest among wide receivers, and his 10’10” broad jump tied for the second-farthest. He also tied Missouri’s J’Mon Moore for the fastest time among receivers in the three-cone drill with a 6.56 time, and his 20-yard and 60-yard shuttle both led the position with 4.03 and 10.85 seconds, respectively. Cantrell also displayed good hands and good body control in positional drills. Valdes-Scantling measured in at 6’4” and 206 pounds and ran a blazing 4.37 40-yard dash, trailing only D.J. Chark in that drill. Let me repeat that: he’s 6’4” and ran a 4.37 40-yard dash. That’s insane. Valdes-Scantling was great in the positional drills, as well, as he displayed solid route running abilities and very reliable hands. In fact, he didn’t drop a single pass all day. I’m going to have to watch tape on both of these guys, but their athleticism would make them intriguing options for the Bears on Day 3.
- I’ve mentioned LSU’s D.J. Chark quite a bit so far, and for good reason, too: he was fantastic at the Combine. His 4.34 40-yard dash led all wide receivers, triggering a lot of puns about his last name from NFL Network’s Mike Mayock and Rich Eisen. His 40-inch vertical was the highest in the class, and his 10’9” broad jump tied for the fourth-highest among wide outs. Those numbers, especially at 6’3” and 199 pounds, are mind-boggling. His route running ability was on display in workouts, and his body control was very impressive. Chark was a dangerous deep threat in college, and his Combine outing confirmed that he is a game-changing athlete. I honestly entered Saturday’s workouts much lower on Chark than many people - he wasn’t even in my top 10 receivers - but with how well he tested, I may just have to watch a few more of his games. He will likely end up going in Round 2, so the Bears may have to consider spending an early pick on him if they want to add him.
- Texas A&M’s Christian Kirk and Texas Tech’s Keke Coutee are two slot receivers that I have been very high on in the draft process so far, and neither of them let me down. Kirk ran a 4.47 40-yard dash, benched 20 reps in the bench press (one more than Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and six more than Oklahoma offensive tackle Orlando Brown) and had a 35.5-inch vertical jump. Kirk is one of the best route runners in this year’s class, and that definitely showed in the workouts. His cuts were crisp and quick, his hips were fluid and he changed direction very well throughout the day. Coutee, although he failed to do as well as his aforementoned teammate Dylan Cantrell, put together a solid outing, too. He ran a 4.43 40-yard dash, which was the sixth-fastest time among receivers, and a 4.15 20-yard shuttle. Like Kirk, Coutee’s route running skills were on full display in workouts, as was his quickness. Kirk would be a very good option for the Bears if he were to be available in Round 2, while Coutee would be a viable target in Round 4.
- I know that the Bears aren’t in the market for a starting quarterback, but I wanted to give some of my thoughts from the best quarterbacks in this year’s class. In my opinion, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Wyoming’s Josh Allen had the best performances at the Combine on Saturday. Rosen had a few bad passes on comeback route and slant route drills, but his deep ball placement was immaculate. My jaw literally dropped a couple of times after I saw him deliver dimes to receivers on fade routes. Mayfield wasn’t great on deep balls, but his short-to-intermediate accuracy was the best of the quarterbacks. Plus, he dropped back very quickly, whereas some quarterback lazily went through their dropbacks. Allen had a few bad passes, but his performance in workouts was a lot more consistent than his performance on tape was. As one could expect, the deep routes were his bread and butter, as he had a couple of deep passes go for about 70-80 yards. His ball placement on those passes were actually pretty good, too. I know that the Combine doesn’t provide a very accurate representation of how a quarterback can read defenses and make decisions, but it’s still encouraging to see the top quarterbacks in the class do well at the Combine.
- If the Bears are planning on drafting a quarterback to back up Mitchell Trubisky, then Texas Tech’s Nic Shimonek could be a good option. Out of all of the quarterback projected to go outside of Round 1 (excluding the aforementioned three signal-callers, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and USC’s Sam Darnold), Shimonek easily had the best workout. His deep ball placement was impressive, as was his ball placement on pretty much every throw. Considering that ball placement was an issue of his when I watched him on tape, it’s good to see some sort of improvement in that area. Shimonek is a solid athlete, as well, as he can evade pressure fairly well in the pocket. He might be a good player for the Bears to target in Round 7.
- The two top defensive linemen in the bench press were Stanford’s Harrison Phillips and Washington’s Vita Vea, who had 42 and 41 reps, respectively. Phillips would be an intriguing option in Round 2 as a 3-technique or a 5-technique, while Vea would be an interesting pick with the eighth overall pick. Both of them are polished linemen who have value against the run and rushing the passer. I’m looking forward to watching them in drills on Sunday.
- Many have suggested that Virginia Tech linebacker Tremaine Edmunds should move to edge rusher if the Bears were to pick him at no. 8. Despite his edge-rushing abilities not being great, he has the size and athleticism to make people believe that he could be a game-changer at the position. However, his bench press numbers weren’t all that impressive. He benched 19 reps, which tied for 14th among linebackers. Sure, the bench press isn’t the end-all-be-all for measuring strength - North Carolina State edge rusher Bradley Chubb had 24 reps - but Edmunds’ relative lack of success among linebackers makes me think that he would be much better off as an inside linebacker in a 3-4 rather than an edge rusher in a 3-4.
- One-handed UCF linebacker Shaquem Griffin managed to come away with 20 reps in the bench press. Using a prostestic hand to grip onto the bar, Griffin pumped out more reps than anyone would have expected from a 227-pound linebacker. He will likely fall into Day 3 because of concerns over his hand, but one lucky NFL team is going to find a stud when they pick him.